Skin color and discrimination

by Nurussakinah Mahmud

African American history of discrimination can be traced back since early 1600s when they were brought in as slaves for white people. Although slavery has been made illegal for centuries, the discrimination against them while can be said as somehow are now more discreet, it is sadly nowhere near any ending.

While racial discrimination is not something new in this world, I admit that discrimination because of skin colour or skin tone is quite new to me. The first thing that I thought of was why would people who know how hard being discriminated against, want to discriminate each other still? The documentary of students in Hampton University showed that even in black society, the tone of your skin can also causing you to be judged by people. Suddenly, it is not just a matter of black or white anymore. It is now how dark is your skin tone; is it very dark brown, dark brown, medium brown or lighter.  But this is all happening in the African American society. Are they, after so long of being discriminated by whites, start to subconsciously thinking that they ought to become nearer to whites too in term of skin tone? Is the mass media responsible for this kind of thinking?

The portrayal of black people in television can reflect a lot to this way of thinking. For example, black is always been stereotypically portrayed as the villains or the ugly ones, thus, to not be associated with being bad, they try not to look like that, ergo they want to lighten their skin. While it is said that African Americans do have higher self esteem than whites, especially women as they are always portrayed as strong and independent, the study by Keith shows that having lighter skin tone boosted the self esteem of the women. Thus we can probably say that while they are not ashamed of being black per se, having lighter skin tone is still thought as being fairer and healthier than being darker.

Another point we discussed during the presentation was the connection between skin tone, achievement and self esteem. We pointed out that Michael Jackson for example, had a quite successful career before turning ‘white’, therefore skin tone and achievement cannot be said to be in a direct relation to each other. But after discussing it, we do found the point to be a weak one since the number of successful black men is just too few in comparison to the much lighter ones. And because the focus of this chapter is on women, the scale is definitely more imbalance.  In a world where the perception of beauty is equal to having a fair skin and physical appearance is also quite an important factor considered when looking for a job, women with lighter skin tone do get higher privileges.

Furthermore, marriage, however pathetic this may sound, is also an important socioeconomic factor or an achievement in a woman’s life. Thus, to get a good husband, a woman has to put herself at par with the others in term of beauty. This is where the self esteem (as well as good whitening products) comes into equation. Even though one can be successful without having a high self esteem, self esteem definitely can boost up one’s chance to be successful and if being lighter skinned can make a woman self esteem to increase, her chance to get a good husband is also indirectly increased since she is now what people generally assume to be a beauty.

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